This episode takes us into another dystopian future like in the Season 3 finale, only this time; the world has been taken over by Observers! Set in 2036, the exposition explains that the Observers, who once only watched human history, now police it. In 2015 they seized control of the human population. Those who survived are called Natives. Those who serve the Observers are called Loyalists. Fringe Division has been utilized to police the Natives and crush any resistance.
Fringe Agent Etta (Georgina Haig) serves as the protagonist for the episode. She leads a double life as part of the resistance with her superior Agent Simon Foster (Henry Ian Cusick). The opening sequence serves to establish the nature of this new future, where the Observers can basically go around doing whatever they want, and people have to put up with it.
Etta goes to an Observer club and saves her contact from being “wiped” (presumably a memory wipe?) He says this was the preferred option to being “read”. You probably haven’t forgotten, but yes, Observers can read your mind. Well everyone except Etta it turns out. She’s “special”.
Her contact is also part of the resistance, and he has a special delivery; it’s Walter (John Noble), encased in Amber. Supposedly, the old Fringe Team encased themselves in Amber at some point 20 years ago (2016) after failing to stop the Observers. Etta’s mission is to find them and free them. It’s not really clear how the resistance is organised or from whom Etta is getting her orders, but you’ll find out at the end that her motives are much more self serving. As if it wasn’t already obvious who she is. At any rate, the contact is assassinated and Etta escapes with Walters Amberfied body.
Once Agent Foster helps her de-Amber Walter, they discover that Walter’s brain tissue was evidently damaged by his proximity to the Amber blast. He is now probably even crazier then when he first came out of St. Claire’s. With Walter clearly unable to help them in his current state, Etta turns to a much older Nina Sharp (Blair Brown). Nina now has white hair, an automated wheelchair, and her mechanical arm no longer functions. She’s now the head of the Ministry of Science. Nina tells them about Walter’s spare brain tissue at the old Massive Dynamic headquarters and how this might make Walter lucid again. Even in the future, Massive Dynamic holds the answer to every Fringe case, even if it’s just a deserted building!
At Massive Dynamic, Foster at Etta wait for the tissue solution to be absorbed into Walter’s brain. It’s a great time for some getting-to-know-you character development. Foster tells the story of how he was at college, far from home, when the Observers “purged” the humans in 2015. His parents both died that day and he realised that they were part of the resistance. They sent him to college far away because they knew what was coming. It was then he vowed to avenge them and to destroy the Observers.
This episode is very plot heavy, and I won’t go into too much detail, but suffice to say, Etta and Foster are able to heal Walter’s mind, and they escape from Massive Dynamic before the Loyalist Agents catch them. Walter then leads them to the place where he and the old Fringe team was Ambered. You’ll notice that our old pal William Bell (Leonard Nimoy) is back and is evidently not dead in the Season 4 timeline. First to be blasted out of Amber is Astrid (Jasika Nicole) and then the blasting device gets fried. Uh-oh. Before they have time to fix it, Foster’s tracking device is activated, which means Fringe Division is on its way. There’s time to get one more body out, but without an air blaster, there’s no way to get them out in time before the Amber resets. Foster sacrifices himself to push the body out, becoming the new occupant of the Amber prison. Since this will most likely be a two-part episode, I’m hoping that they go back for Foster next week. Henry Ian Cusick (whom you’ll remember very well from Lost) is a really charismatic actor, and I’d definitely like to see more of him in Fringe. There’s something about his demeanour, especially when he’s sacrificing himself that just says, “It’s all going to be OK. You can feel comfortable leaving me with your children.”
So the team evades capture once again and goes on the run, leaving William Bell behind in Amber. Well, not exactly… Walter brings Bell’s sawn off hand with them to use later, “After what he did to Olivia.” What did he do to Olivia? Does Bell kill Olivia like September (Michael Cerveris or, Sir Not-Appearing-In-This-Episode) predicted?
Etta nurses the sentimental pendant that she wears around her neck, which is revealed to be a spent bullet. Since we can assume something terrible happened to Olivia (Anna Torv, also not in this episode) and since you’ve probably already guessed a while ago that Etta is Olivia and Peter’s daughter, the bullet may well be the bullet that kills Olivia. Peter (Joshua Jackson) is there with her, now thawed from Amber and the episode ends with him realising that she is his daughter, calling her Henrietta. (Peter’s love child with Fauxlivia in Season 3 was called Henry, who now never existed.)
This episode was interesting enough; it was full of plot and kept moving without really slowing down for one-on-one scenes, which is uncommon for Fringe. My main concern is that this is now probably going to be a two-part episode, (although the preview of next week, which I was unable to see, is apparently back in the ‘normal’ world), with a two-part season finale to follow. Having introduced this new story arc so late in the season, I fear that they wont have enough space to rap up this, and all the lose plot threads that remain without counting on a new season next year. Of course this may be a one-off story that is never resolved, Fringe has a strange tradition of introducing these at episode 19 each season. Bizarre stories that fit into the main plotline but then never go anywhere. At any rate, Peter still needs to ‘fix’ the timeline, making everyone assimilate like Olivia has. There’s also the tenuous alliance with the other side, and the unresolved conflict with David Robert Jones.
Gods of TV land hear my prayer. Grant the directors of Fox and Warner Bros. the wisdom and grace to look past their self-serving motives for profit and ratings and give them the will to deliver us a fifth and final season of Fringe. Even if it’s a reduced season, say thirteen episodes? Amen.